King James takes his rightful place
THE end of August was exhilarating. The last big day more damp squib than fireworks. Still, to the winners go the spoils and we have the contradictory climax of Kerry, the great aristocrats, embracing the pragmatism of our times to tactically outmanoeuvre the scheming machine from Tír Chonaill; along with the perverse paradox of a team totally dismissed back in May landing Kerry's 37th All-Ireland in September.
Before we sign off on the football season, however, there are some prizes to divvy out.
Here goes ...
FOOTBALLER OF THE YEAR
1 JAMES O'DONOGHUE (Kerry)
The standout performer for the new champions, shooting the lights out every day until the last one, when his selfless approach play revealed a different string to his bow.
2 MICHAEL MURPHY (Donegal)
More than any man, Murphy (left) drove Donegal to the final where he couldn't quite sustain his towering influence.
3 PAUL FLYNN (Dublin)
We marginally favour Flynn's stellar summer consistency over his colleague Diarmuid Connolly's penchant for the truly spectacular.
YOUNG PLAYER OF THE YEAR (U21)
1 RYAN McHUGH (Donegal)
A below-par final shouldn't deflect from his workaholic heroics, never more obvious than against the Dubs.
2 CORMAC COSTELLO (Dublin)
3 SHANE WALSH (Galway)
INDIVIDUAL GOAL OF THE YEAR
1 DIARMUID CONNOLLY
(St Vincent's v Castlebar)
Connolly's outrageous second goal (pictured, right) in the All-Ireland club final. His trademark Roy of the Rovers run was followed, after the ball briefly fell to earth, by a flick-up without breaking stride and left-footed thunderbolt.
2 DARACH O'CONNOR
(Donegal v Antrim)
It required something special to stop this being a Connolly clean sweep. Check out this.
3 DIARMUID CONNOLLY
(St Vincent's v Sylvester's).
A more recent YouTube sensation from the Dublin county championship last week.
TEAM GOAL OF THE YEAR
COLM McFADDEN (Donegal v Dublin)
Durcan's soaring kickout, Murphy's majestic flick-down, then Gallagher and Mac Niallais combining for McFadden to jink inside the last man and 'keeper.
POINT OF THE YEAR
SHANE WALSH (Galway v Tipp)
Thank heaven for that mis-hit '45', allowing us the chance to glimpse Walsh's sublime first-time control with his right foot, then instant swivel onto his left for a wondrous over-the-shoulder score.
MATCH OF THE YEAR
KERRY v MAYO (replay)
SHOCK OF THE YEAR
DONEGAL v DUBLIN
FLOP OF THE YEAR
1 CORK v Kerry
2 MEATH v Dublin
3 LOUTH v Kildare
SPECIAL MERIT: For the tree-hugging Donegal spy who 'flopped' from his Killarney perch.
TEAM DISPLAY OF THE YEAR
1 DONEGAL v Dublin
2 DUBLIN v Meath
3 KERRY v Cork
INDIVIDUAL DISPLAY OF THE YEAR
1 DIARMUID CONNOLLY v Castlebar
2 JAMES O'DONOGHUE v Cork
3 DAVID MORAN v Mayo
COMEBACK OF THE YEAR
1 DUBLIN v Cork (NFL semi)
2 KERRY v Mayo (draw)
3 DONEGAL v Dublin
HOWLER OF THE YEAR
1 CORMAC REILLY:
For his plethora of refereeing gaffes in the Kerry/Mayo replay.
2 PAUL DURCAN (right):
For that calamitous short kickout.
3 CROKE PARK:
For gambling on Mayo/Kerry not going to a replay.
DUEL OF THE YEAR
Keith Higgins v James O'Donoghue:
Two gladiators in the ultimate epic (pictured, right).
A Star reborn, and the man who transformed the race for Sam. Just like in '06.
TOO STRANGE TO BELIEVE
That Dublin would find themselves embroiled in two alleged Bitegate sequels - the first one leading to a suspension, whereas the second one quickly fizzled out for lack of any evidence offered.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
1 The Derry team that blazed a trail to the league final.
2 The Lesser-Spotted Black Card.
3 All the experts who said Kerry couldn't win anything without the Gooch; that no rival manager would outfox Jim McGuinness; that Donaghy was a beaten docket; that Dublin's dynasty would reign for a decade ...